Amazon's scary admission should worry every customer

The declaration was made in a very matter-of-fact way that makes it all the more alarming.

Privacy is one of the biggest issues facing consumers these days. The data we have shared with our devices get transferred to the cloud and we have absolutely no idea what and where it can be used. A recent report by CNET has highlighted some of these concerns in an in-depth article and the report should concern every single individual out there.

Amazon’s Alexa has been at the forefront of various privacy issues and when quizzed about what’s been done with the data they respond quite flatly that it is stored forever and never deleted until a user does so manually.

Senator Chris Coons requested Amazon to provide information about how the Amazon Alexa voice assistant operates. This was because a lot of consumers use their Echo device for all vital needs including performing mundane chores such as turning off the light. Coon quizzed Amazon on how long does Amazon store its voice recordings and transcripts and Amazon has matter-of-factly stated: Forever.

Amazon states, “We retain customers' voice recordings and transcripts until the customer chooses to delete them.” So unless a customer deletes the data manually, it is left in Amazon’s cloud servers.

The question ‘Who even remembers to do that?’ or ‘Who even knows how to do that?’ arises.

This response came in a letter from Amazon’s VP of Public Policy, Brian Huseman and he goes on to add, “We do not store the audio of Alexa's response. However, we may still retain other records of customers' Alexa interactions, including records of actions Alexa took in response to the customer's request. And when a customer interacts with an Alexa skill, that skill developer may also retain records of the interaction.”

What this essentially means is that it’s bad enough that Amazon retains your data what’s worse is that it shares it with a third party service as well.

It can be argued that this may all be inevitable since this is the age of technology and these things just happen. If you expect Alexa to know you better and provide you with more accurate responses, you have to allow it to retain your information and know each and everything about you.

Also, a point worth noting is that these voice transcripts that are stored aren’t anonymized. In other words, it feels that these companies do not want you to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they do it.

And as with the case of humans and privacy, it is up to you to learn how to delete it rather than being deleted automatically by the tech company that stores your data. However, this is far from their interest so, will not.

Amazon states, “When a customer deletes a voice recording, we delete the transcripts associated with the customer's account of both of the customer's request and Alexa's response. We already delete those transcripts from all of Alexa's primary storage systems, and we have an ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa's other storage systems.”

Coons in a statement rightly points out, “Amazon's response leaves open the possibility that transcripts of user voice interactions with Alexa are not deleted from all of Amazon's servers, even after a user has deleted a recording of his or her voice.”

Whatever the case may be, it appears that humans are resigned to this fate and that this is the future they will live in. The point is that we have forfeited our privacy for the convenience of not needing to think or actively do.

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